Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Pepper Jack’s is the kind of place you go to eat a burger, have a beer and watch a game. It is the kind of place you go to sit and stay a while, where you can eat wings or ribs that fall off the bone when you pick them up — the way they should be, according to owner Lee Skidmore — and not worry about the sauce dripping down your chin.
The day after the restaurant opened May 30, Skidmore said they already had repeat customers, even one who came in for lunch, returned for dinner and ordered a pound of hickory-smoked pulled pork to take home.
“Everyone kept telling us, ‘Once we get on the mountain, we hate leaving the mountain,’” said the Montlake resident, who is a friend of the building’s owner and had been thinking of opening a restaurant there for several years. “We saw a need, and we’re trying to fill it and have some fun in the process.”
Bill Wright, a 28-year veteran chef, built the menu around the restaurant’s name. Signature items (denoted by a spur on the menu) reflect his interpretation of its meaning: spicy, with a full-bodied flavor.
Among the restaurant’s unique offerings are chargrilled wings and bone-in chicken, something of a rarity in restaurantrs due to the higher cost of a fuel that constantly needs replenishing, said Skidmore.
“The taste reminds you of being in the backyard with your family and friends,” he said, describing the mindset he sought to create with the restaurant’s atmosphere as well as its food.
The restaurant’s deep-fried hot dog is also something one won’t find just anywhere. Wright highly recommends the jalapeno-encrusted onion rings, served as an appetizer as well as a topping on the Rings of Fire burger.
Lee’s wife, restaurant co-owner Stacey Skidmore, said one customer declared Pepper Jack’s fried chicken to be better than a downtown fried chicken establishment which has been, up to this point, fairly widely considered Chattanooga’s finest.
Another rare find is the grilled Caesar salad, made with grilled romaine lettuce served chopped with a bit of warmth to it, said Wright.
Despite the fact that he doesn’t like a majority of the dish’s ingredients, Lee Skidmore said he still finds the chicken salad sandwich “to die for.” The smoked chicken is key, along with just the right balance of finely chopped red grapes, celery, pecans and mayonnaise, served on a croissant, according to him. The turnip greens, cooked in true Southern style, are also one of his favorite items.
Wright said he has the restaurant’s beef custom-ground to his specifications, which is part of what makes his burgers extra tasty.
“If you’re looking for a good burger, we have it,” he said.
A die-hard Vols fan, Skidmore said he bleeds orange and his nine TV screens will be turned to the biggest games on, though any channel-change requests will likely be accommodated.
The bar has beer only and serves the varieties Skidmore’s distributor said sold best on Signal Mountain. Among the options on draft are Sweetwater 420, Big River’s Sweet Magnolia and Pabst Blue Ribbon, all served in a frosted 16-ounce glass.
On the menu
Pepper Jack’s is at 3720 Taft Highway and can be reached at 386-5449.